One man's second chance at life after a heart transplant

Jesse Galle, 38, is a clinical research manager at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

But when he was 19, a virus attacked his heart.

"Instead of going back to move into my first apartment in college, I found myself waiting for a transplant, hooked up to monitors," he said.

Jesse, a close friend for more than 25 years, waited a month and a half for a heart. Then one night, he got the best news possible.

"They're like, 'Call your parents—there's a heart available for you. We want you to be down in the OR in 45 minutes,'" he recalled.

Then, what happened next Jesse calls "magical." And it involves everyone waiting for an organ transplant.

"They wake everybody up, they come around your gurney, the stretcher they're taking you down to the operating room in, and everyone says a prayer around you," Jesse said. "And it's this really special moment."

When he woke up in the recovery area, he was hooked up to tubes everywhere.

"I thought, 'OK, I got through surgery—that's a good start," he said.

Along with taking anti-rejection pills in the morning and night, Jesse gets a checkup every four months with his transplant cardiologist, Dr. Maryjane Farr, at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

"What families come around to see after they've done this is one of the most healing things that they can do for life everlasting," Farr said.

Jesse doesn't know his donor. He reaches out every year on Sept. 8—his so-called second birthday, the day he received his heart—to the donor's family. He remembers the first time he reached out to them.

"It was just thanking them for the gift," Jesse said, "especially in that time of tragedy and loss for them to make a decision to give someone else a second chance at life."

And a life I'm grateful for.

You can learn more about becoming an organ donor here.